September 23, 2008

Prop. 8 Battle Lines Drawn

LONG BEACH: Plan to ban same-sex marriages prompts gay community, City Council to action.

By John Canalis

Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - Opposition to the proposed ban on same-sex marriage is reaching a fever pitch in Long Beach, home to one of Southern California's largest gay and lesbian populations.

Fundraisers, phone-a-thons, protests and lawn signs are among the local tactics being used to defeat Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 statewide election ballot.

"We look back now and we say, 'I can't believe that black people could never vote and women could never vote,"' said Justin Rudd, a Belmont Shore community organizer. "I think one day we will look back and say, 'I can't believe gay people couldn't marry."'

Rudd is sponsoring a No-on-8 event from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at Morry's of Naples, 5764 E. Second St.

Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, seeks to revise the state constitution so that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized."

Among those working to keep that language out of the state's governing document is 5th District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, the only openly gay member of the Long Beach City Council. Schipske and Councilwomen Tonia Reyes Uranga and Bonnie Lowenthal authored the city's resolution against Proposition 8, which passed with a 9-0 council vote on Aug. 19.

"It is true," she said when asked if the local tide was turning against the Nov. 4 ballot measure. "Opposition is increasing because more and more people know someone in their family, or a friend or a coworker or an elected official who is gay or lesbian.

"And these people understand that it would be horrendous for California voters to approve an amendment to the state Constitution making it illegal for same-sex couples to enter into what is a state- sanctioned relationship - marriage."

Fighting the ban

Realtor Flo Pickett, Schipske's partner of 28 years, has been spending Sunday nights at a volunteer call center calling voters and asking them to oppose Proposition 8 and donate to the campaign against it.

About 20 to 40 volunteers a week show up to the phone-a-thons, Pickett said, adding that she and the other callers are targeting independent voters.

"We think we're doing well," she said. "We're getting a lot of positives. Not a lot of people are hanging up."

Attorneys Stephanie Loftin and Rebecca J. Birmingham are also sponsoring Thursday night phone banks at their law offices on Broadway, which runs through the heart of the city's gay community.

"They're targeting people that are likely to be swayed," Loftin said. "I think that it's getting some momentum."

The attorneys, who married over the summer, are still collecting donations for the No on 8 campaign from friends who visit their wedding registry.

Robert Garcia, who works in public information at Long Beach City College and is active in downtown groups and issues, is organizing a fundraiser to "help defeat the ban on same-sex marriage" at

5:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 on the rooftop deck at Smooth's Sports Grille, 144 Pine Ave., Long Beach

Garcia, who is considered a likely City Council candidate next year, will be joined by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, at the Long Beach Marriage Equality Cocktail Fundraiser.

In addition to the council, several well-known groups have taken positions against the measure.

The Center Long Beach, which provides services to the gay and lesbian community at 2017 Fourth St., is collecting donations and recently handed out No-on-8 lawn signs.

The Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club opposed Proposition 8 in August and has made the issue the theme of its annual human-rights banquet next month aboard the Queen Mary.

Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach took to the intersection of Bellflower Boulevard and Atherton Street after Sunday services in protest of the initiative.

Signal Hill Councilman Larry Forester, who is one of three openly gay members of the council, is getting ready to attend his fifth same-sex wedding since the state Supreme Court lifted the ban on gay marriage on May 15.

His council did not take a formal position, but Forester is strongly opposed.

"We are not talking about religious terms," he said. "We are talking about what the Supreme Court said, and they said they have the right to marry."

State backing wavers

Statewide, the measure appears to be losing support, according to a Thursday story by the Associated Press.

About 38 percent of respondents in a Field Poll supported Proposition 8.

The Sacramento-based Yes on 8 campaign issued a statement the same day, arguing that polling was flawed.

"Recent polls published by California media outlets claim that Proposition 8 to restore marriage in California as between a man and a woman, is trailing among voters," said Frank Schubert, a campaign manager for "These polls, including the Field Poll released (last) week, suffer from the same historic problem that other polls on this subject around the country have had: They do not accurately reflect the true support for traditional marriage."

Locally, much of the support for Proposition 8 has come from churches.

Calls left with three pastors Monday were not returned; most of them had the day off following Sunday services.

Among area churches to support Proposition 8 are First Evangelical Church of Cerritos, Vineyard Family Christian Fellowship in Downey and Life Center Church in Lakewood.

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